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Review – Angel of Death Row – Andrea D. Lyon

Angel of Death Row
Author: Andrea D. Lyon
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
Nineteen times, death penalty defense lawyer Andrea D. Lyon has represented a client found guilty of capital murder. Nineteen times, she has argued for that individual’s life to be spared. Nineteen times, she has succeeded. Dubbed the “Angel of Death Row” by the Chicago Tribune, Lyon was the first woman to serve as lead attorney in a death penalty case. Throughout her career, she has defended those accused of heinous acts and argued that, no matter their guilt or innocence, they deserved a chance at redemption.

Now, for the first time, Lyon shares her story, from her early work as a Legal Aid attorney to her founding of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases. Full of courtroom drama, tragedy, and redemption, Angel of Death Row is a remarkable inside look at what drives Lyon to defend those who seem indefensible—and to win.

There was Annette who was suspected of murdering her own daughter. There was Patrick, the convicted murderer who thirsted for knowledge and shared his love of books with Lyon when she visited him in jail. There was Lonnie, whose mental illness made him nearly impossible to save until the daughter who remembered his better self spoke on his behalf. There was Deirdre, who shared Lyon’s cautious optimism that her wrongful conviction would finally be overturned, allowing her to see her grandchildren born while she was in prison. And there was Madison Hobley, the man whose name made international headlines when he was wrongfully charged with the murder of his family and sentenced to death.

These clients trusted Lyon with their stories—and their lives. Driven by an overwhelming sense of justice, fairness, and morality, she fought for them in the courtroom and in the raucous streets, staying by their sides as they struggled through real tragedy and triumphed in startling ways. Angel of Death Row is the compelling memoir of Lyon’s unusual journey and groundbreaking career.

Review:
Its always interesting to see where my Goodreads challenge reading takes me, since I know that the Angel of Death Row is likely not a book I would have picked up, if I wasn’t looking for a non-fiction book with a specific theme. These theme (in homage to the pioneering women in Hidden Figures), a non-fiction book about a women who was first to do something significant (which Ms Lyon most definitely did). I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical going in – I mean, when I think about Death Penalty cases – visions of people like Jodi Arias come to mind or the scene from The Green Mile (where they are using the electric chair) and my thought pattern was how can she defend people who seem indefensible (yes, I know that everyone deserves the best defense they can afford by our constitution), but its still hard for me…but that wasn’t what I got.

As soon as I started reading Angel of Death Row, I felt drawn to Ms Lyon – it was interesting seeing how when she made up her mind on her career pathway that nothing derailed her and seeing how she knowingly made choices that would set her career on the trajectory to become the first female to try a death penalty case in the US. Added to that, her experience as the only female on Task Force Homicide which was part of the Public Defender’s Office (which by the way, why do we never see anything more than the slovenly public defender on TV who is quickly replaced by a high-powered shark of a lawyer, who swoops in to save the day) – made her career progression all the more intriguing – I haven’t read a lot of biographies about individuals in the legal field (lawyers or judges) – so I can’t say what I expected a typical career to look like, but this isn’t what I expect (yeah, I know, totally vague there)…

It’s hard to go into the different cases that were mentioned in Andrea’s book – several of them are mentioned in the books description – but in so much more color/detail – at times, I felt like I was sitting in a kitchen with Ms Lyon while she interviewed a witness or trudging the streets with her while she tried to find that one person who would be able to exonerate her client. But her career wasn’t all roses, she had her ups and downs and in the writing of her book, she didn’t shy away from talking about those issues – including the impact that such a career has on a personal life.

I believe that Angel of Death Row should be a required reading book for law students, especially those who are maybe considering defending or prosecuting individuals charged with homicide. There is something that everyone could learn from reading it. I’ll be interested to see what derivative recommendations I get based on my reading of the Angel of Death Row.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2017 in Book Review, Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Underground in Berlin – Marie Jalowicz Simon

underground-in-berlinUnderground in Berlin
Author: Marie Jalowicz Simon
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Narrator: Ellen Archer
Run Time: 11hrs 47min
Narrator Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Hachette Audio

Description:
In 1941, Marie Jalowicz Simon, a nineteen-year-old Berliner, made an extraordinary decision. All around her, Jews were being rounded up for deportation, forced labor, and extermination. Marie took off her yellow star, turned her back on the Jewish community, and vanished into the city.

In the years that followed, Marie lived under an assumed identity, forced to accept shelter wherever she found it. Always on the run, never certain whom she could trust, Marie moved between almost twenty different safe-houses, living with foreign workers, staunch communists, and even committed Nazis. Only her quick-witted determination and the most hair-raising strokes of luck allowed her to survive.

Review:
I’m a little bit belated in posting this audiobook review (like 6 months late)…but it was a book that made me think about the lengths people go to avoid getting caught. When most of us think about Jewish people who managed to survive the Holocaust, we think of Anne Frank and her family who lived in the Attic until they were turned in; or people like Corrie Ten Boom who helped hide people in a crawl space – but there were others that managed to survive by just staying a step ahead of the Germans – Marie Jalowicz was one of those people.

What made her story remarkable (at least to me) was how unremarkable it really was – it wasn’t sit on the edge of the chair thrilling, but more of a roller coaster ride – sometimes gentle and lulling and other times ricocheting you around the track…mostly wondering if she could actually manage to avoid the Nazi’s for 4(ish) years until the war ended…obviously since she wrote a book about her experiences she did (does that count as a spoiler?) So much of the story seemed just ehhh, she went here and stayed on a couch and had to keep really quiet so she wasn’t discovered during the day and the moved to another location and did the same thing. I think that the story being remarkedly unremarkable is why I only gave it 3.5 stars – I enjoyed portions of the story but the internal me wanted a bit more excitment (isn’t that kind of pathetic?)

Its kind of weird – I could have sworn that i’d listened to something narrated by Ellen Archer before, but looking through my audiobook files – I can’t find anything by her (which means, i’m either going nuts, or simply didn’t log it)…anyways, one of the good things about listening to non-fiction/biographies is that narrators don’t need to deviate too much from a normal reading voice (differentiating characters etc) – so it was a solid listen with no frills – a story that was relatively simple, with a relatively simple narration style – i could easily get used to something like that.

Overall, I gave Underground in Berlin 3.5 stars and the narration 4 stars. Its a solid autobiography that while not exciting is insightful into how people survived persecution during World War 2.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2016 in Audiobook Review, Review

 

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Review – The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz – Denis Avey

Avey_Auschwitz_mech.inddThe Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz
Author: Denis Avey

Description:
The almost unbelievable story of Denis Avey, now 92, began in 1944 when he was captured and sent to a POW work camp. He was put to work every day in a German factory, where he labored alongside Jewish prisoners from a nearby camp called Auschwitz. The stories they told him were horrifying. Eventually Avey’s curiosity, kind-heartedness, derring-do, and perhaps foolhardiness drove him to suggest–and remarkably manage–switching places with two of the Jewish prisoners in order to spend a couple of harrowing days and nights inside. Miraculously, he lived to tell about it.

Review:
I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a review of this book, but it seemed kind of appropriate considering that yesterday (the day that I finished it), marked 20 years since the Holocaust Museum opened in DC. And i had just spent an afternoon there the previous week (even though I have been multiple times, it is still an emotional/moving experience that leaves me shaken). This was particularly so because on the cover of the book, you could see the sign from Auschwitz that said “Work Will Make You Free” (translated). There is a similar replication of that sign at the Holocaust Museum. I found it interesting that there has been some debate over that sign – it was a well-documented fact that it was over the gates of Auschwitz I (the most well-known of the satellite of the camps). However, according to testimony in the book, it also appeared as a sign over Auschwitz III, right next to the POW camp where Avey was being held.

I do have to admit that I was expecting a bit more – when you see a book that is titled, “The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz,” – you would likely expect lots of danger and intrigue. There was that, but at the same time, I think that the author also played down his accomplishment. Yes, he could have been killed for what he did – but he managed to survive. I also expected that it would going to be for a long period that what actually occurred – but the majority of the book was dedicated to the lead-up to him becoming a POW, and then his life post-war. The POW portion of the war only encompassed about 6 short chapters in the book. But they were intriguing – I guess it would be hard to write on a topic when you experienced the same hell, day in and day out.

But stories like this are intrigued to me. I always thought that if I decided to pursue a graduate degree in history (rather than psychology), that I would likely focus on the Holocaust or some other aspect of war/military history. But at the same time, I had never considered looking at it from a psychological perspective. But that is just me mumbling away. I would definately recommend this book for anyone who is interested in WW2 memoirs. I think that it would also be a good book for students studying the WW2 European theatre because the author touches on a lot of the different operations that were on-going (the Africa Korps, Rommell in Africa, some of the Naval battles); as well as his time as a POW. It is a sad thought knowing that each year, more and more people with this memories are dying and soon there will be none left – and all that will remain are memoirs like Avey’s and personal recollections, like the work done by the Shoah Foundation to record the stories of survivors.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Book Review

 

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